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Old 10th May 2016, 11:50 AM
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workmx workmx is offline
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Default Do newborn babies imitate adults? New study says 'no'

Do newborn babies imitate adults? New study says 'no'


Newborn babies do not imitate us we imitate them according to a new study that reignites a long-standing debate over whether or not babies are born with the ability to copy adults.

Websites and books aimed at new mothers and even textbooks tell us that babies are born imitators, but a new study published today in Current Biology supports the idea that it is a skill they have to learn likely by us imitating them, rather than the other way around.

"When we interact with babies ... we want to bring them into our world," said senior author Professor Virginia Slaughter, a developmental psychologist at the University of Queensland.

"We imitate them, and when we imitate them, this stimulates them to behave.

"We continue to imitate their behaviour and this sets up a reciprocal interaction that looks like imitation and that ultimately becomes imitation but is driven by the parents or the adult's behaviour rather than the baby copying what somebody does perfectly from birth."

Researchers have long been divided over whether newborn babies can imitate adults and while some studies have showed newborns imitate adults, others have not.

"We set out to settle the controversy," said Professor Slaughter, who said her study was the largest and the most comprehensive study of its kind to date.
Infant response to adult gestures tested

Professor Slaughter and her colleagues tested infant responses to a wide range of adult gestures at one, three, six and nine weeks of age.
Adults presented 106 infants with 11 different gestures including tongue poking, mouth opening, finger pointing, and happy and sad facial expressions, as well as sounds like "mmm" and "eee".

The infants were exposed to each gesture for 60 seconds during which time the researchers recorded the infants' response.

To guard against the infant becoming confused by each gesture they ensured it was quiet, alert and engaged before a new gesture was presented to them.

"To our surprise we did not find any evidence that babies imitated any of the gestures at any of the time points," Professor Slaughter said.

The most common activity among newborns was tongue poking, which they found occurred in response to a number of gestures by the adult.
"Mouth opening, as well and happy and sad faces, all got the same amount of tongue poking response as did tongue poking itself," Professer Slaughter said.

She said there was no doubt older infants could imitate adults, but her findings suggested that babies learn this skill.

For those who think this takes some of the magic out of having a child, Professor Slaughter disagreed.

"I think it's magical and wonderful that from the time babies are born they are interested in other people, and they are ready to learn about how they relate to others around them in part, by learning to imitate," she said.
Professor Slaughter said the findings should come as encouraging news to parents who find their newborns do not imitate them.

She said this was certainly the case when she told one mother of a newborn about the research findings.

"She let out this massive sigh of relief and said: 'Oh thank God, I've been trying and trying to get my newborn baby to imitate. She wouldn't do it and I thought there must be something wrong with her'," Professor Slaughter said.
A 'game changer' - or not?

Developmental psychologist Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, of La Trobe University, said the paper was going to have major impacts on theory, research and teaching in the area of child development and conditions like autism.

"This is a game changer. It's very exciting," she said.

"None of the studies to date have had this many children or this many gestures included within a strong experimental paradigm."

She said the study was also the first longitudinal study to look at imitation in newborns.

However not all psychologists are convinced.

"This paper is far from having solved the controversy of neonatal imitation," said Dr Elizabeth A Simpson, an assistant professor in the University of Miami.

Dr Simpson said the study had "significant methodological shortcomings".
She said some of the modelled actions are actually rare or absent in newborns.

"If an infant is unable to produce a given action, then of course she will be unable to imitate it. This isn't a fair test," Dr Simpson said.

The authors also failed to give infants sufficient time to respond, she said.
"In many ways, the authors appear to have set up the infants to fail," she said.
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Old 10th May 2016, 06:48 PM
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Darwinsbulldog Darwinsbulldog is offline
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Default Re: Do newborn babies imitate adults? New study says 'no'

Humans would be unique if that is the case. Where there is parental care, there is imitation.
Having said that, we smile as a gesture of friendship, babies smile just after they dropped a bundle.
Just stick to the idea that science tests falsifiable hypotheses to destruction.
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Old 10th May 2016, 09:05 PM
Spearthrower Spearthrower is offline
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Default Re: Do newborn babies imitate adults? New study says 'no'

I think that's taking it a bit far; adults may imitate some elements of baby behavior, but the baby's learning how to be a human, and its only models at that age are its parents and family. I expect the answer's much more simple: adults are just better at imitating babies than babies are at imitating adults.

Last edited by Spearthrower; 10th May 2016 at 09:06 PM.
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Old 21st May 2016, 08:24 PM
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DanDare DanDare is offline
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Default Re: Do newborn babies imitate adults? New study says 'no'

Dianne and I never talked baby talk or did any of that sterotype stuff with Phaedra. We kissed and smiled a lot and talked in adult voices and discussed things as if she could understand us from day one.
"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government".
-Thomas Jefferson

Burden of proof is the obligation on somebody presenting a claim to provide evidence to support its truth (a warrant). Once evidence has been presented, it is up to any opposing "side" to show the evidence presented is not adequate. If claims were accepted without warrants, then every claim could simultaneously be claimed to be true.

History isn't written by the victors. It's written by the people with the time machines.
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Old 21st May 2016, 10:48 PM
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TokenSkeptic TokenSkeptic is offline
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Default Re: Do newborn babies imitate adults? New study says 'no'

After spending one day looking after Toddlerfest at SciTech as a volunteer, and then the next night at the graduating year Medical Students of UWA party from 9pm-1am, there's NO BLOODY DIFFERENCE between young people and adults, just the amount of alcohol.
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